- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 15, 2007

Federal prosecutors, defense attorneys and translators yesterday began sifting through hundreds of photographs and letters that are expected to link three defendants to the violent MS-13, or Mara Salvatrucha, gang.

Establishing a link is crucial for the prosecution of Jose Cruz “Piranha” Diaz, 27, of Lanham, Omar “Duke” Vasquez, 28, and Henry “Home Boy” Zelaya, 20, who are charged with racketeering activities that involved slayings, kidnapping, robbery, obstruction of justice and witness-tampering.

If convicted, they could be sentenced to life imprisonment.

Most evidence presented on the fourth day of the eight-week trial in Greenbelt yesterday came from a Jan. 9, 2006, raid of a house in the 1200 block of Cronin Drive in Woodbridge, Va.

Federal and local law-enforcement officers found letters, photographs and MS-13 sweatshirts in closets, chests, drawers and shoe boxes throughout the house, said Kimberly Drielak, special agent of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Many photographs were of gang members, many of whom were wearing MS-13 sweatshirts and waving a “pistol” hand sign in the air.

Many sheets of paper were handwritten lists of nicknames, as for a roll call. The phrase “Home Boy” was on most because Mr. Zelaya’s nickname and full name appeared on many letters and envelopes.

The return address on some letters, including those of Mr. Zelaya, came from jails in Upper Marlboro and La Plata, Md.

A Spanish interpreter, whose name was withheld, said she “translated at least 150 letters.”

Mr. Zelaya smiled slightly as the interpreter read from his letters, “your spouse and husband and [Home Boy],” “To my beloved wife Liz,” “I don’t know when I’m going to get out,” “I’m locked up,” and warning that the “police will be talking to you.”

Timothy Mitchell, attorney for Mr. Zelaya, argued that no guns, explosives or bullets were found in the house.

“Possession of letters and photographs is not necessarily illegal,” he told the 17 jurors.

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